BANANA BOYS adapted by Leon Aureus from the novel by Terry Woo, directed by Nina Aquino, with In-Surp Choi, Derek Kwan, Richard Lee, David Yee and Dale Yim. Presented by fu-GEN in association with Factory Theatre and Hastings Park Foundation at the Factory Studio (125 Bathurst). Runs to October 3, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Saturday-Sunday 2:30 pm. $13-$26, Sunday pwyc. 416-504-9971. Rating: NNN
There are lots of reasons to recommend Banana Boys , Leon Aureus 's lively stage adaptation of Terry Woo 's debut novel about a band of 20-something Canadian-born Chinese guys. Brevity isn't one of them.
At more than two and a half hours, the play is far too long. At that length, it takes on an epic weight that it can't support thematically.
Woo's book follows the lives of five CBCs as they deal with being - as the title signals - yellow on the outside and white on the inside.
Filled with anxiety and rage over Asian stereotypes, family pressures to succeed or just trying to get laid (they're all heterosexual), the characters turn to drugs, alcohol or violence - to themselves and others - to cope.
Directing a script that jumps around, sometimes awkwardly, in time and place, Nina Aquino tweaks the scenes so there's always something exciting to watch - or hear.
One hilarious scene about an aspiring writer's ( Derek Kwan ) career anxiety is modelled like a game show. Another story gets four retellings, all amusingly staged.
Even in the doubling of roles Aquino and Aureus emphasize the five men's characters. And the parts, though not entirely fleshed out on the page, come alive onstage, due to directing and careful casting, especially of In-Surp Choi as a DJ and (in the most difficult role) Richard Lee as the cold-hearted group leader.
There's some repetition and some false notes: the singing feels fake, and expressions like FOB (fresh off the boat) aren't explained onstage. But as a display of the talents of Aquino and many rising actors, this inaugural production of fu-GEN Theatre , a company devoted to Asian-Canadian theatre, shows plenty of promise.